Latest research news

July 20, 2005

US to clamp down on foreign researchers
The Pentagon has alarmed some US scientists by proposing new restrictions on access to sensitive technology by foreign researchers. The large number of foreign researchers active in US laboratories would have to wear badges and laboratories would have to contain segregated work areas under the proposed code. US universities, which have been struggling to create a more welcoming climate for overseas postgraduate students and researchers in the wake of the 9/11 clampdown, believe the measures are excessive and could offend foreign scientists.
The Guardian

Academics to advise on European research
A group of eminent academics from throughout Europe were appointed today to advise the EU Commission on which research projects to fund in an effort to compete with the US and fast developing scientific nations like China and India. The former government chief scientist Sir Robert May and the leading computer expert Wendy Hall, of Southampton University, are the two British members of the group, which will advise the European research council. They join 20 other founding members of the group - all charged with rising above national rivalries and backing the best research irrespective of where it is carried out in Europe.
The Guardian

New test detects pathogens in minutes
A new technique for detecting dangerous pathogens could lead to faster and cheaper diagnosis of disease and prevent food poisoning, say US researchers. The team claims their biosensor is accurate enough to identify different strains of disease-causing organisms in a blood sample in just 30 minutes, and at a fraction of the current cost. The researchers hope the test could soon be incorporated into an inexpensive hand-held device for use in the field and in the developing world. Current biosensors rely on a costly and time-consuming technique called gene amplification, which involves taking a piece of DNA from the sample and adding enzymes to make enough copies to allow the pathogen to be detected. It can take up to 48 hours for a positive result.
New Scientist

Data at your fingertips
Researchers in Japan have managed to carve tiny numbers and pictures into a fingernail, in the form of microscopic dots burnt into the nail by laser. The team has only managed the feat on nail clippings so far, but they hope the process could one day be used to securely carry information on live fingertips. It might even replace credit cards, they suggest, although you'd have to get your information carved in every six months or so as the nail grows out. Yoshio Hayasaki of the University of Tokushima and colleagues say a single fingernail could accommodate something like 800 kilobytes of data. That won't provide room for a high-resolution photo, but would be enough to store basic identification information.
Nature

Faulty gene linked to obesity and diabetes
A faulty gene that causes insulin resistance may be a causative factor in nearly half of all families with obesity, a new study suggests. Researchers have discovered that a hereditary mutation in gene ENPP1 contributes to obesity in children and early onset of type II diabetes, both of which carry severe health risks. Philippe Froguel from Institut Pasteur in Lille, France, and colleagues from Imperial College London, UK, looked at the genes of 1225 children aged 5 to 11 who were clinically obese, and 1205 normal weight children. The obese children were two to three times more likely to have a mutated copy of the gene. And when the researchers looked at the children’s parents and grandparents, they found a similar risk for obesity and early-onset diabetes associated with the gene variant.
New Scientist, The Scotsman

Mice gang up on endangered birds
On one of the Earth's most remote islands, mice have learned, and are apparently teaching each other, how to attack and kill bird chicks that are 200 times their size. Far from exulting in the cleverness of mice, the researchers who discovered this want to eradicate the rodents from the island in order to save endangered albatrosses. Biologists on Gough Island, a speck in the Atlantic between the southern tips of Africa and South America, first learned of the problem when they found that tristan albatrosses were losing their chicks at an extremely high rate: up to 80 per cent were dying.
Nature

Quitting smoking helps you keep your teeth, study shows
Smokers who give up are much less likely to lose their teeth prematurely than those who fail to kick the habit, dentists revealed today. Dental researchers at Newcastle University spent a year observing a group of cigarette smokers with chronic gum disease, and found that symptoms were more likely to improve in the people who quit during the study period. The research team said that their findings provided another reason for the UK’s 12 million adult smokers to give up.
The Times

New chocolate is a real gas
Bubbles of laughing gas could put a smile on the faces of chocolate lovers, it was claimed today. Scientists found that putting bubbles of nitrous oxide into chocolate produced a more intense, melt-in-the-mouth flavour. Aero chocolate bars are already marketed on the strength of their air bubbles. Researchers at the University of Reading have been trying to find out what bubbles work best by experimenting with four gases - nitrous oxide, better known as laughing gas, nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide.
The Scotsman

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